Education System

Education System

AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION

W

hile characterized by great diversity, American institutions of higher education are classified in general as follows:



Under Graduate Study

Community and Junior Colleges: provide a two-year course beyond high school or secondary school. Courses are either €œTerminal€, leading to employment, or €œAcademic€, preparing the student for transfer to a four-year college or university where he/she will complete his/her education. Graduates of junior colleges are usually awarded an Associate in Arts (A.A.) or Associate in Sciences (A.S.) degree.

  • Technical Institute
  • Liberal Arts College or University
  • The Bachelor's Degree

Graduate Study

Graduate and Professional Schools: Provide post-university study leading to the Master's or doctoral degree.

  • The Master's Degree
  • The Doctorate Degree

Non-Degree Students

Students wishing to take courses without enrolling for a degree may apply to register as €œspecial students€. Colleges and universities are increasingly reluctant to accept €œspecial students€, unless they are enrolled for a degree in some other institution and are seeking instruction which is not available in the other institution. Non-degree students do not have access to all the facilities that degree students are able to use, such as limited access to library and computer facilities, and often there is a limitation on the number of credits they can take.

Professional Training

Training for many professions may only be taken as postgraduate study. Thus a law degree takes three years after completion of a four-year Bachelor's degree; medicine takes four years after a Bachelor's degree, and social work two. In other professional fields such as dentistry, veterinary medicine and architecture, four years of general college work is usually required before admission to the four-year professional program.

ACCREDITATION

If one decides to study in the United States, one should always choose an institution which is €œaccredited.€ An institution is accredited provided that its program of study, professors, and academic facilities meet the minimum standards established by an agency recognized by the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation and by the U.S. Department of Education. Accreditation by a regional agency, such as the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools or the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, applies to the institution as a whole and may be awarded for up to four different levels: Associate degree; Bachelor's degree; Master's degree and Doctorate. Accreditation by a professional agency applies only to the relevant school or department; e.g., engineering schools are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Foreign students should not enroll in degree courses in institutions or departments which are not accredited.

THE CREDIT SYSTEM

American degrees, both undergraduate and graduate, are earned on the basis of the number of courses successfully taken. Each course earns €œcredits€ or €œunits€, which are known as credit hours, semester hours (for schools on the semester system), quarter hours (for schools on the quarter system) or merely hours or credits. The number of credits earned by each course relates to the number of hours of classroom work involved, but does not necessarily correspond exactly. For instance, a course meeting three times a week for an hour (actually 50 minutes) each time may be expected to give a student three hours credit for the semester or term. On the other hand, an intensive seminar may meet once a week for two hours and also be a three-credit course. Two or three laboratory periods are usually considered to be equivalent to one class €œhour€. The undergraduate student program, known as an €œacademic load€, is normally 15-17 units a semester, or 12 to 15 units a quarter. The graduate student's normal load is 9-12 units.

THE GRADING SYSTEM

Students are graded on course work completed, and most colleges and universities use letter grades as follows: A being excellent or outstanding; B means above average; C, average; D, below average; and F, failing. Roughly, the following percentage values and point scales are applicable:

An undergraduate student must maintain a C or 2.00 average in general and a B or 3.00 average in his or her major field in order to receive a degree.

Some schools may also use the €œPass/Fail€ grading system in which there are only two possible grades. The student either passes and receives credit for the course or fails and receives no credit. Many schools combine both the €œPass/Fail Option€ with the conventional grading system. In this case, a student may take a certain number of courses for a Pass or Fail grade, and his other courses using the conventional A - F grading system.

IMPORTANT NOTE: There are no real equivalencies between the Belgian and American grading systems. Therefore, when supplying U.S. universities with information on the courses you have taken here and the results, always give those results in their original form, i.e., 15/20. Do not attempt to translate the Belgian system into American terms.

A student's academic standing is often measured by his or her grade point average (GPA). This is the average of the grades that a student has had for all his years of college or for each term. The grade point average is computed by dividing the total number of grade points by the total number of credit hours. For example, a student takes four 3-unit courses with the following results: Business 101 - A; Introduction to Business Law - B; Mass Media and Marketing - A; and Computer Science Techniques applied to Business - B. The average is determined as follows:



Grade Units or Hours Grade Points Grade Point Average

A = 4.0

* 3

12

B = 3.0

* 3

9

A = 4.0

* 3

12

B = 3.0

* 3

9

12

42

3.5

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